An Overview of Fakhar Zaman in ODIs – Will He Fire in England?

Before the England ODIs get underway, we review Fakhar Zaman's ODI career and how he's fared in the 50-over format.

1

Introduction

It has been four years since Pakistan won an ICC tournament, since the Champions Trophy triumph in 2017. One of the stand-outs from the Pakistan team from this tournament was Fakhar Zaman. Fakhar had the 2nd highest strike rate in that tournament for a batsman with more than 100 runs, along with an average of 63.0. Since then, the left-hander has not stopped breaking records.

According to CricViz, since the ODI World Cup in 2015, Fakhar Zaman has the second-highest percentage of attacking shots in the powerplay, just below Colin Munro. This sums up the Pakistan opener's attacking approach while batting and why Pakistan needs a Fakhar-like batsman in the top order.

Demands of Modern ODI Cricket

Most of the time in ODI Cricket, the pitches are flat, and thus, runs are being made faster and faster. 2020 had the highest RPO in any year in this century in ODI cricket after 2015, which shows that cricket is getting faster and faster especially ODI cricket.

Highest Yearly Run Rates in ODIs

RPO

Year

5.50

2015

5.47

2020

5.43

2016

5.42

2019

5.36

2017

5.29

2014

5.19

2018

Fakhar Zaman has the 9th-highest strike rate among ODI openers since 1st January 2000. However, the strike rate in isolation cannot define the role of Fakhar Zaman in making Pakistan an ODI side that can score in excess of 300. However, the fact that Jonny Bairstow is the only opener among those eight with a better average than him also speaks volumes about his importance.

Player Runs Avg SR 100 50
Jonny Bairstow 2851 50.91 109.15 11 9
Jason Roy 3658 40.19 107.27 9 20
Virender Sehwag 7518 36.49 104.72 14 35
Brendon McCullum 3363 32.97 102.74 4 19
Shahid Afridi 1890 24.23 102.55 2 11
Jesse Ryder 1012 31.62 102.32 2 4
Adam Gilchrist 7194 36.89 100.65 11 45
Soumya Sarkar 1155 33.97 100.26 1 8
Fakhar Zaman 2262 49.17 97.12 6 13

The License

Fakhar Zaman has scored a total of 6 scores of more than 100 in ODIs. His overall strike rate in powerplay is 85.6. In the innings that Fakhar has scored centuries, his PP strike rate has been above this except in his first and his latest century. So, he should ideally have the license to go bang in the powerplay.

How Fakhar Models His Innings Compared to Imam and Babar

Normally, batsmen in ODIs take some time to settle down and then go towards hitting boundaries and improving their strike rate. However, with ODI cricket changing, batsmen now try to utilize the powerplay fully by going berserk at the start and then lowering their strike rate a little in the middle overs before going full aggressive in death overs. Fakhar Zaman is one of the few top-order players in Pakistan who model their innings like this (powerplay SR 85.6), while other top-order batsmen of Pakistan take time to start playing aggressively.

Worst Powerplay SRs for Batsmen from Top Teams (Since 2018)

Player

SR

Kane Williamson

64.78

Imam-ul-Haq

66.12

Shai Hope

66.78

Tamim Iqbal

68.08

Babar Azam

69.87

Liton Das

74.13

Rohit Sharma

74.27

The “Downfall”

Mixing formats has always been a problem in Pakistan cricket. For example, Ramiz Raja played more than 50 Tests with a batting average of just above 30 (he had a good idea record). More recently, we have the example of Haris Sohail, who was dropped from all formats after a horrid Test tour of New Zealand, even though he was then a crucial component of the ODI team with superb overall numbers.

This happened with Fakhar Zaman as well. After coming on the international scene during the Champions Trophy, Fakhar was inducted into the T20I team too. During his first two years, he averaged 26.42, and his strike rate was 140.5. However, after people’s expectations rose due to the extraordinary Champions Trophy and Zimbabwe tour, people later declared Fakhar Zaman a minnow basher and hack, amongst other things.

The left-hander still did go through a lean patch in ODIs. From late-2018 to 2020, he made 895 runs at an average of 30 and a strike rate of 88. While he wasn’t scoring fifties and hundreds regularly, he usually didn’t waste too many balls, scoring a quickfire 30-40 and maintaining a healthy strike rate. At the same time, Imam-ul-Haq settled at the other end, usually scoring at a slow rate. Imam has a reputation for being a little slow at starting his innings. Whether he makes up for that appropriately or not… is a debate for another time.

A Closer Look at Fakhar’s Struggles During That Period

If we look a little closer at that period, Fakhar’s struggles started with the 2018 Asia Cup. Coming from Zimbabwe, where he scored four 50+ scores in 5 innings, including a century and a double century, he was expected to go bang in the Asia Cup. However, the slow UAE pitches didn’t appear to suit his style, and Fakhar failed to score a single 50+ score in that tournament. He made more than 10 just twice against Hong Kong and India.

Even after playing 13 ODIs in UAE, Fakhar averages just 27.5 in UAE (his lowest in a specific country) and has a strike rate of 82.3. At the time, this further strengthened his image as a minnow basher.

The Big Stage

Fakhar Zaman went into the 2019 World Cup off a series (against England) where everyone scored a truckload of runs. At times, 350 was not enough to defend. Fakhar here scored 200 runs at an average of 40 and a strike rate of 114.9. Normally, this would have been a good outcome for any other series – except for the series where 320+ runs were scored in almost every innings.

In the World Cup, Fakhar and Imam were Pakistan’s openers. Thus, with Imam anchoring, Fakhar had to focus on upping the run rate right away and start scoring runs quickly. Perhaps the pressure of maintaining the run rate along with the pressure of the first World Cup got to him, and he ended up with below-par returns in CWC19.

A Blessing in Disguise

Before going to New Zealand, the left-hander got flu symptoms, so he could not board the flight to New Zealand as per COVID regulations. Later, he tested negative and utilized this time to work with domestic and NHPC coaches and participated in the Quaid e Azam Trophy and the Pakistan Cup. Perhaps that helped him get back on track…

Resurgence

After that domestic season, Fakhar Zaman found the momentum he needed in ODIs and scored two centuries in three ODIs against South Africa, including a brilliant 193. With the upcoming three ODIs in England, where he has played 17 matches previously (his most in a specific country), Fakhar will be looking to continue the momentum he found in South Africa.

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1 comment
Mohammad Khan
10 Jul, 2021

Good analysis! Fakhar is crucial to Pakistan's ODI squad. He isn't needed in our T20I squad, we see it, but for some reason, the selectors don't..